The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 19th February 2010

Tory cooperatives fool no one

TORY Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is feeling very insecure; that is the only explanation for his crazy proposal that if the Conservatives win the coming election they will introduce worker co-operatives into the public sector where workers would be allowed to take over their own departments and run them.

Staff of taxpayer-funded services, such as primary school teachers and nurses, would decide how they were run — within certain national standards. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne hailed the policy as “pretty radical”.

They have been fooled by their own propaganda into thinking the organised working class really is as stupid as it’s portrayed in the media.

Any workers who fell for this idea would soon find themselves in a desperate plight. Cameron has made no secret of his plans for swingeing budget cuts to the public sector. These cooperatives would be given the responsibility for delivering good quality public services but only a fraction of the budget needed to do it; they would get the blame for poor services while the Tory government would dodge the public outrage for their cuts.

The workers would become technically self-employed. National bargaining, pay rates, terms and conditions, pensions, sick pay and holidays would all go out of the window. And when the money ran out they would be responsible for sacking each other or trying to employ other workers at lower pay rates. They would be forced to become their own tyrannical, cash-starved bosses or face bankruptcy. There would be conflicts of interest between one worker and the next; between one cooperative and the next and between the workers and the people they were delivering their services to.

Workers’ cooperatives could only work within a socialist state that would see they were properly funded. Even then they could still be divisive between one cooperative and another and would end up like competing small businesses. That is the weakness of syndicalism.

The real Tory agenda is to use these workers’ cooperatives as an alibi for a drastic reduction in public services in general — and a backdoor way to hand them over to the private sector. The vultures will be waiting for the workers to cut millions of their own jobs, their own pay and conditions. Then they will step in and pick off any bits that could be made profitable. And the general public can look forward to a drastic reduction in services or having to pay through the nose for them.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, described the Tory proposal as “a recipe for disaster”. He went on to say: “The public won’t be fooled by George Osborne’s road-to-Damascus conversion to cooperatives. This is just another Tory Party plan to break up public services, plunge them into confusion and then let the private sector ‘pick over their bones’.


“How are we to ensure that our schools and hospitals maintain high standards if there is no one to monitor or take responsibility when things go wrong.

“There would be enormous problems for staff too, with the breakdown of national pay bargaining and confusion over pensions.”

The GMB agreed. Brian Strutton GMB national secretary for public services said — “This is a real left-field idea that seems completely out of step with what’s going on and begs a number of questions. On the one hand the Tories are talking about swingeing public sector spending cuts then on the other they want schools, community nurses, probation services, job centres and heaven knows what else to launch into huge bureaucratic processes to achieve nothing at all — surely the wrong idea at the wrong time.

“Who would decide whether to go for a co-operative? Would the public users of these services get a say? What would be the benefit? What if it should go wrong? Who would a co-operative be accountable to? There doesn’t seem to be any depth of thought behind such a radical sounding idea so I think the conclusion to be drawn is that this is just a political gimmick.”

The Tories are obviously desperately trying to attract working class votes but the more they do, the more they give themselves away. Just last week they claimed the pregnancy rate among teenage girls in deprived areas was 54 per cent! The real figure was 5.4 per cent. Then they compounded the error by saying that misplacing the decimal point made no difference to their argument — an attack on the Government for creating “two nations”.

With every move they make the Tories betray their contempt for the working class. We must never allow them back in power!